Justin Rose is determined to put his injury troubles behind him and mount a strong defence of his UBS Hong Kong Open title.
The Englishman shut down for two months after the Ryder Cup in an attempt to resolve his back issues and returned to action last week at the Hero World Challenge.
He was forced to withdraw after the first round in the Bahamas with more back trouble and admits his preparation for this week at Hong Kong Golf Club has not been ideal as he defends the title he won in dramatic fashion in 2015.
But the Olympic Gold medallist from Rio 2016 has been working hard to get back to fitness and is hopeful of making another tilt for the title in the Far East.
“I’ve done everything I can the last few days to do everything I can to defend here,” said the 2013 US Open Champion.
“I’m making good progress. The journey over here seemed to go well and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’ve been working hard to be honest with you for seven weeks. I’ve been really excited about what I’ve seen in my game in practice.
“Last week was a mis-hap for sure but I feel good about things in general. I feel optimistic about next year. Certainly I feel motivated and I feel hungry.
“In terms of this week, it’s not ideal to come in here slightly undercooked preparation-wise but I’m hoping that the fact that I’ve been diligent and careful the last few days is going to
allow me to be competitive for all four days. I know my game plan and I know my strategy and I have good memories on which to draw.
“You never really forget how to compete. So once Thursday starts, hopefully the system gets up and running. This is a golf course I’ve played enough now to be able to see it blind this week, so to speak. I know my game plan and I know my strategy. I have good memories on which to draw.”
Rose went toe-to-toe with Lucas Bjerregaard over the weekend in Fanling in 2015, eventually prevailing by one shot despite a bogey on the last with the next closest challengers’ five shots behind the Dane.
Rose will not only have to overcome his fitness worries if he wants to become the first man since Miguel Ángel Jiménez (in 2014) to defend the UBS Hong Kong Open. Jiménez is among the star names in town looking to dethrone Rose, with Spaniard looking to become the most successful player in the tournament’s history by claiming an unprecedented fifth title.
Another former Champion, Ian Poulter, is looking to return to the winner’s circle, while Masters Champion Danny Willett and world number eight Patrick Reed are among the headline names set to do battle over the magnificent Hong Kong Golf Club.